A Thesis For:
A Forum for The Topic of Philosophy
Pertaining to the Philosophy of:
Wing Chun / Yǒng Chūn (咏春)
A Branch of Kung Fu
Thomas “Tivy” Tvedten
Under the Study of Sifu Estrada
This essay will cover the following topics:
- “Wing Chun,” ~ Its likely more accurate spelling & Mandarin Chinese pronunciation.
- “Wing Chun’s” Buddhist philosophical origins.
- “Wing Chun’s” philosophical growth through:
- The legend of, and very likely the true founder of the art form, Buddhist Nun, Ng Mui, & her likely philosophical perspective on the art of “Wing Chun.”
- The legendary Ip Man, and what his philosophical perspective has been portrayed as being in several movies about Ip Man, which are very likely accurate depictions of his philosophical perspective on “Wing Chun.”
- The iconic Bruce Lee, and his philosophical outlook on “Wing Chun” and martial arts in general.
Spelling & Pronunciation
When you search on the Google search engine the topic of “How do you pronounce Wing Chun in Chinese?” the Pinyin spelling of “Wing Chun” appears as “Yǒng Chūn.” In simplified Mandarin Chinese, it is spelled, “咏春,” and when you left click on the speaker-icon on the right side to hear the Chinese pronunciation of Yǒng Chūn, it sounds very close to “Young Chwin” (Google, 2017).
Buddhist Philosophy Upon Which, Wing Chun / Yǒng Chūn (咏春) was Founded
Let’s cover some basics regarding the fundamental-purist Buddhist philosophy (not the religion) according to Leonard Bullen’s article entitled, “Buddhism: A Method of Mind Training,” (Bullen, 1991):
Based on Leonard Bullen’s essay on the philosophy of Buddhism, a strong argument regarding a “fundamental purist Buddhist” can be made that a “true Buddhist” is not a famous movie star, nor a Grand Master of any form of martial arts, for both “Identities” are not only known, but in fact, known by very many. A “true, fundamentalist-purist Buddhist” is in fact not known by anyone because this Buddhist is not even known by himself/herself; the fundamental-purist Buddhist consciously acknowledges that there is no permanent sense of “self” to be known by anyone.
A true Buddhist approaches life, not from a religious perspective, but from the philosophical perspective that from one instant in relative time to any given other instant in relative time, everything of organic life and inorganic nonliving matter is in a continuous state of change as evidenced (hundreds of years later after the Buddhists had already accurately described it) by easily identifiable continuous chemical reactions, molecular changes, atomic rearrangements, and particularly by the constant resonance of electrons which are visible through such technology as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (an MRI scan). So, from a perspective based upon Buddhism, it is improper to say, “I am a Buddhist,” because in truth, by the time those very words come out of one’s mouth, that person has already changed so drastically that the person has in fact been completely redefined / recreated into a new version of whatever she or he used to be.
From this philosophical Buddhist perspective, there is consequentially no such real entity as any permanent sense of self-identity, but this concept of a permanent identity is an illusion that ultimately sets one up for failure. This philosophical contention is that if one has a permanent sense of “self,” then it is a natural tendency to seek “self-indulgence” or “happiness.” From the Buddhist perspective, experiencing happiness is inevitably succeeded by experiencing the opposite of happiness which would logically be a feeling of misery or suffering.
Therefore, the Buddhist has two main goals:
- The first goal is to eliminate this concept of a permanent self-identity, which when accomplished, eliminates the pursuit of self-indulgence or happiness, and removes the propensity to experience the opposite of happiness which is suffering.
- The second goal is to direct one’s energy toward an endlessly increasing sense of peace rather than seeking extremes such as happiness or misery.
These Buddhist seeks to accomplish these goals by entering a deeply introspective meditative state that exposes the true realization of a constantly changing state of existence. Once this realization is consciously identified & acknowledged, then it becomes clear that one has a decision to make regarding which direction the Buddhist needs to channel internal energy (referred to as “Chi” or “Qi”) towards.
Energy can be channeled towards feeding the perspective of “self” in such manners as seeking to indulge one’s “self,” towards feeding other’s pathological perspectives & states of existence, or even towards preying upon the real or perceived weakness of others.
Energy, however, can also be directed toward the goal of removing the illusion of self, and resultantly removing efforts to indulge or harm anyone of any form of existence in any manner, thereby successfully embarking on a journey of increasingly achieving a state of peace and a balance of energy.
At this point it should be explained that there are many ways to enter this state of “mindful-awareness” through meditation. Some meditation is performed by holding very still in specific positions which are believed to facilitate a healthy and smooth flow of energy, while other forms of mediation are performed through various manners of movement such as yoga, Kung Fu, and yes, Wing Chun / Yǒng Chūn (咏春) Chun Kung Fu.
From this concept of energy stems many branches of Buddhism which are of a religious nature, but that is not the subject of this essay. For, the philosophical Buddhist does not bow to a statue of what “Buddha” may have looked like out of any intention to worship Buddha, but this bowing is done as a conscious, deliberate, and outward expression of respect & gratitude for the teachings that this person named “Buddha” left behind for others to learn from.
The Philosophical Evolution of Wing Chun / Yǒng Chūn (咏春)
One of the possible origins of Yǒng Chūn (咏春) is that this style of “meditation-in-motion” was created by a Buddhist nun called “Ng Mui.” From this point in this explanatory essay, quite a bit of subjectivity by myself (the author of this essay) necessarily comes into play as a rational attempt to explain the philosophical growth of Yǒng Chūn (咏春) in a manner that intuitively makes logical sense from the perspective of one who practices the art of Yong Chun:
Yǒng Chūn (咏春) starts out with the typically very rigid & precisely choreographed form called Sil Lum Tao, “小念頭 – Little Idea,” (The Six Wing Chun Forms, 2017). This beginning form involves a deeply meditative focus on one’s breathing, the concept of focusing on one small part of an entity of any type to discern what the nature of the entire entity truly is (Cheung, 2010). Another way that this concept is sometimes referred to in terms of reasoning, is through the concept of “inductive reasoning” which is defined by some dictionaries as the derivation of general principles from specific observations. This introductory form of Yǒng Chūn primarily involves only upper body movement which is typically quite stiff, rigid, and robotic appearing in the new practitioner of Yǒng Chūn (咏春).
Next, the student will typically progress to Chum Kiu, “尋桥 – Bridging the Gap,” (The Six Wing Chun Forms, 2017) which facilitates movement of your upper & all of your lower body by pivoting on your heels while keeping your hips in simultaneous motion with your entire body (thus becoming less rigid & robotic in movement), and also requires movement toward your imagined opponent to close the gap between this opponent and yourself so that you must rely on your intuition to feel (not to see or visualize) when, where, and how your opponent intends to strike at you, and also so that you must respond to these attacks instinctively rather than by having time to “think it out” or “premeditate” your intended response to the attack (Cheung, 2010).
In Biu Ji, “标指 – Thrusting Fingers,” (The Six Wing Chun Forms, 2017) total body movement is continuously utilized with the brutal force of a tsunami. This ‘form’ is very snake-like in its close-range attacks, highly aggressive nature, and the cobra-like fangs which are formed by your “Thrusting Fingers” (Cheung, 2010).
Then in Muk Yan Jong, “木人樁 – Wooden Dummy,” (The Six Wing Chun Forms, 2017) you begin to learn how to flow like water (Lee, Bruce Lee: Be as Water My Friend, 2013) around a Wooden (human-resembling) Dummy in a graceful manner just as water flows around any form of adversity without internalizing any pain or damage. The increasingly ‘formless-form’ also incorporates the deadly force of a tsunami that becomes necessary when the environmental conditions of any given situation require it.
From this point you MUST progress toward battling/fighting with an infinite number of increasingly diversified varieties of real-life opponents who are each from drastically different fighting-background styles (Cheung, 2010), and your goal is always focused not necessarily on winning every fight (Lee, Bruce Lee : Artist of Life, 1999), but rather, your focus is primarily aimed towards learning from every fight regardless of your perceived “success” or your perceived “failure” in the fight, thus becoming increasingly more like water in every way so that, just like water, you successfully & immediately adapt to any & every situation no matter how new, cataclysmic, challenging, and/or brutal the force may seem to be, regardless of whether or not that force is “real” such as a physical opponent or “perceived” such as a psychological addiction of any kind.
The Grand Master of Yong Chun, Ip Man, who was one of the iconic Bruce Lee’s Sifus (teachers) was quoted in the movie Ip Man I, starring Donnie Yen, as saying, “Strive to never strive,” which seems to mean that just as water effortlessly overcomes obstacles within its path, so too should a martial artist effortlessly evolve to successive levels of higher functioning (Yip, 2008).
Yǒng Chūn (咏春), like most forms of Kung Fu, does not involve much ground-grappling. The likely reason for this was quoted in the movie, “The Grand Master,” in which Tony Leung played Ip Man and said something to the effect of, “Kung Fu is a simple concept: Vertical, you win. Horizontal, you lose” (Wong, 2013).
The real Ip Man was known for one of his favorite quotes which possibly originated from Leonardo Da Vinci, which effectively summarizes the fundamental-purist basic philosophy of Buddhism as well as the pragmatic learning & practical application of Yǒng Chūn (咏春) in which he said, “Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication” (Granat, 2003 ).
Bruce Lee seemed to summarize these combined concepts very effectively when he said, “Be formless . . . Be as water, my friend” (Lee, Bruce Lee: Be as Water My Friend, 2013).
Philosophically it should be mentioned that Yǒng Chūn (咏春) is also based on the nature (not the specific movements) of both the snake & the crane. While a snake is not a true predator who hunts for its prey, it does attack lethally at close range when its personal space has been violated. A crane typically, however, is almost an opposite response in which it blocks an attack with its wings and then flies to safety. In this manner, it can be said that Yǒng Chūn (咏春) mimics the human sympathetic nervous system of either a fight or flight response.
Unlike many forms of Kung Fu which seek to mimic the movements of animals, Yǒng Chūn (咏春) utilizes simple principles of physics & anatomy:
- The shortest distance between two points, thereby making full use of the potential power between those two points is a straight line.
- Since most of the human body’s vital organs are found in one’s centerline, the most effective offense & defense is to simultaneously block & attack from one’s own centerline.
Lastly, for purposes of completion, the weaponry of Yǒng Chūn (咏春) will be briefly mentioned: It is a subject of much debate as to how & when the weapons of modern-day Yong Chun were incorporated into the system of Yong Chun. The two weapons forms are typically Baat Jam Dao, “八斩刀 – Butterfly Swords/Eight Cut Swords,” & Look Dim Boon Grun, “六点半杆 – Dragon Pole/Six and Half Point Pole” (The Six Wing Chun Forms, 2017). Intuitively, the Butterfly Swords mimic the hand & arm movements of Yǒng Chūn (咏春) while simultaneously incorporating the hip movement by pivoting upon one’s heels. The Swords are also quite short, which is in keeping with the close-range attack system that Yǒng Chūn (咏春) is known for. The Dragon Pole however does not provide a separate weapon for each hand & is typically around 13 feet long thereby keeping your opponents at a distance (The Six Wing Chun Forms, 2017). For further reading on the history of these weapons, and on the art of Yǒng Chūn (咏春) you may want to reference “http://sifuochwingchun.com/wing-chun-weapons/. ”
Bullen, L. A. (1991). Buddhism: A Method of Mind Training.
Cheung, T. C. (Director). (2010). Kung Fu Wing Chun [Motion Picture].
Google. (2017, May 24). Retrieved from https://www.google.com/#q=How+do+you+pronounce+Wing+Chun+in+Chinese?
Granat, H. (2003 ). Wisdom Through the Ages : Book Two .
Lee, B. (1999). Bruce Lee : Artist of Life. (J. R. Little, Interviewer)
Lee, B. (2013, August 14). Bruce Lee: Be as Water My Friend. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJMwBwFj5Nq
The Six Wing Chun Forms. (2017). Retrieved from The Six Wing CWing Chun Life: http://www.wingchunlife.com/wing-chun-forms.html
Wong, K. W. (Director). (2013). The Grand Master [Motion Picture].
Yip, W. (Director). (2008). Ip Man [Motion Picture].
Thank you for your attention and patience throughout the duration of this philosophical explanatory essay about Yǒng Chūn (咏春). Hopefully your interest in this subject is now sufficiently strong for you to either continue your journey in Yǒng Chūn (咏春), or to begin your journey in the study & application of Yǒng Chūn (咏春) to all challenges and obstacles that your stream of water-like energy encounters in its path throughout life so that your energy is properly channeled in a peaceful, effortless, and naturally progressive manner.
My academic training is as a RN-BSN. In nursing & medical journals APA is the accepted format for an academically sound essay, so I have done my very best to meet that set of standards throughout this essay. While I am open to constructive, helpful criticism, there is a fine-line between constructive criticism and a flagrant attack on one’s perspective &/or writing style, so please be gentle with me.
Academically educated as a Registered Nurse with a Baccalaureate Degree, my philosophical education comes through my study of Yǒng Chūn (咏春). I have practiced this art for six years at this point. Applying its philosophic perspective to my own sense of identification and my own personal growth has increasingly empowered me to overcome many addictions such as alcoholism, so I hope that it also helps the reader achieve an increasing state of peace.